Experience Freedom: Read a Banned Book (In Celebration of Banned Books Week)

My dream is that one day, I’ll write a book and it will be banned.

I’m serious. I can’t think of a better way to honor my writing. It’ll put me in good company. The Harry Potter books, The Giver, Bridge to Terabithia, To Kill a Mockingbird, and A Wrinkle in Time have also been banned.

What else do these books have in common? They’ve been banned for all sorts of reasons—swearing, violence, sex, contradiction to religious beliefs (because, you know, flying on a broom and wearing an invisibility cloak like Harry Potter is possible and everything).

But the other thing they have in common is that they all get kids to think.

When I was a sheltered suburban kid, books were how I learned about the world. Number the Stars and Freedom Crossing taught me about the parts of history we wish had never happened. I’d never thought seriously about modern-day racism until I read books about it, like Iggie’s House and certain Baby-Sitters Club books. If I had a problem, like having a fight with my friends or being teased by the popular kids, I’d seek out a book with a protagonist going through the same thing. I even learned about menstruation after reading the word in a book and asking my mom what it meant.

The fact is, books, unlike TV and movies and videogames, can never be called mindless entertainment. The fact that they do get kids to think is undeniable. The books I’ve mentioned that have been banned get them to think about concepts like good and evil and the importance of choice. About serious issues like death and violence and racism. Sometimes just about the possibility of a world other than the one they live in. And because they can’t physically see the story they’re reading unfold, using their imaginations isn’t an option.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that parents don’t have the right to tell their kids they can’t read something they don’t feel is appropriate. I’m also not saying they should. What I am saying is that parents shouldn’t take away another kid’s right to read a good book just because they don’t want their kids reading something with swears (because all kids learn bad words from books) or homosexuality (because their own kids will never meet a gay person in real life) or sex (because there isn’t any other way a kid would possibly be exposed to sexual content) or anything else that they could, you know, just talk to their kids about.

And why won’t they talk to their kids about uncomfortable things? Because they want their kids to go on thinking the world is perfect? Because they don’t want their kids to know that there are people with different viewpoints?

Sadly, there are many people like this in the world. Just check out this web site. On one part of this site, people review movies and TV shows from a Christian perspective, and basically, if it’s not VeggieTales or The Passion of the Christ, someone is offended by it, whether it’s because there’s some vague implication of “magic” (which always means the devil) or because a brother and sister are fighting (which, you know, siblings never do in real life).

I should mention that my first sentence isn’t just idle talk. I actually did write a young adult novel for my senior thesis in college, which I’m currently editing so I can send it to an agent. It’s a book that deals with some serious issues and has some swearing in it. And honestly, while I’d love for it to be challenged, I wouldn’t love for it to be banned, because that would mean that overzealous parents had successfully kept my book out of the hands of kids other than their own.

So I think what I really wish is that a kid whose parents don’t want her to read my book will read it anyway—and think about what I have to say.

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